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Toolbox Library, primary resources thematically organized with notes and discussion questionsOnline Seminars, professional development seminars for history and literature teachersThe Gilded and the Gritty: America, 1870-1912
The Gilded and the Gritty: America, 1870-1912
Topic: MemoryTopic: ProgressTopic: PeopleTopic: PowerTopic: Empire
Topic: Memory: Civil War Memory and American Nostalgia
Toolbox Overview: The Gilded and the Gritty: America, 1870-1912
Resource Menu: Memory
Text 1. Winslow Homer
Text 2. Hamlin Garland
Text 3. Joel Chandler Harris
Text 4. Jane Addams
Text 5. Robert G. Ingersoll
» Reading Guide
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Text 6. Re-Union and the Railroad
Text 7. Visions of the West
Text 8. Owen Wister

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Reading Guide
ca. 1870
Robert Ingersoll, The Wall Street Speech, 1880, excerpts

As we have seen, some Americans, like Joel Chandler Harris, tried to put the Civil War behind them. Others, like Jane Addams, kept it alive in memory as a moral touchstone. Yet still others thrust it foursquare into the national consciousness as a raw and bloody wound. Manipulating the emotions of the War, politicians during this time were able to motivate citizens to remarkably high levels of remarkably loyal voting. One of the best examples of such manipulation can be seen in the speeches of Robert G. Ingersoll. The son of a Congregational minister, Ingersoll was born in Dresden, New York, in 1833. His family moved to Illinois, where he was admitted to the bar and became a court lawyer. His service in the Union Army during the Civil War transformed him from a Democrat to a Republican, and within the party he became sufficiently prominent to nominate James G. Blaine as its presidential candidate in 1876. His own political career—from 1867 to 1869 he served as the attorney general of Illinois—was stymied by his fervent antireligious beliefs. One of the most powerful orators of his day, he became known as "the great agnostic" for his questioning of Christian orthodoxy. Ingersoll campaigned vigorously for Republican candidates and was one of the first to "wave the bloody shirt" of the Civil War to attack Democrats. We can sense some of the force of his rhetoric in the excerpts included here. Ingersoll died in 1899. 4 pages.

Discussion questions
  1. How does Ingersoll portray the Civil War?
  2. What lessons does he draw from it?
  3. How does he achieve his rhetorical affect?
  4. In what way can it be said that Ingersoll was combating stories like "Aunt Fountain's Prisoner"?

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Topic Framing Questions
  •  In the aftermath of the Civil War, how did Americans look back and look forward?
  •  During this period, how did Americans promote the re-union of the nation?
  •  How did they reconceptualize their sense of national identity?

Toolbox: The Gilded and the Gritty: America, 1870-1912
Memory | Progress | People | Power | Empire

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